Today, we commemorate the anniversary of the historic Stonewall Riots, a pivotal moment in LGBTQ+ history that sparked the modern-day fight for equality. However, it is important to acknowledge that the struggle for LGBTQ+ rights predates Stonewall by far. Instances like the Cooper Donuts riots, which occurred a decade earlier, and numerous episodes throughout history remind us that queer people have existed, resisted, and celebrated their identities long before our collective consciousness recognized their struggles.
A Journey Through Time
The Cooper Donuts riots of 1959 in Los Angeles serve as a powerful reminder that the LGBTQ+ community has always pushed back against oppression. In this brave act of resistance, transgender women and gay men challenged discriminatory policing, demanding their right to exist without fear or persecution. These lesser-known stories highlight the rich tapestry of gender and sexual diversity throughout history, underscoring the deep roots of queer existence.
Looking beyond the Cooper Donuts riots, we can find glimpses of gender and sexual diversity across cultures and time periods. From the acceptance of same-sex relationships in ancient Greece to the Two-Spirit individuals revered by many Indigenous cultures, queer identities have been present, celebrated, and respected in various forms throughout human civilization.
Progress and Persistent Challenges
As we celebrate the gains achieved by the LGBTQ+ community, we must also recognize the obstacles that lie before us. Despite the significant strides we have made, recent developments signal a concerning trend. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) reports that over 490 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been tracked, with more than 70 of them enacted into law. These attacks on the queer community are deeply disheartening, reminding us that our fight for equality is far from over.
B Corps: A Call for Solidarity
In times like these, it is crucial for B Corps, as leaders in social and environmental responsibility, to stand together in solidarity and use our collective voices to support the LGBTQ+ community. By creating inclusive workplaces, implementing fair policies, and advocating for LGBTQ+ rights, we can foster an environment of acceptance and celebration.
You Are the Beacon of Hope
Amidst the challenges we face, what gives me hope is individuals like you, dear reader. Your willingness to learn, engage, and participate in the assembly of our collective liberation is a beacon of hope. By embracing diversity, educating ourselves and others, and challenging prejudice and discrimination, we can create a world that embraces and celebrates the LGBTQ+ community in all its beautiful diversity.
As we commemorate Pride and reflect on our history, let us remember that the Stonewall Riots were just one chapter in a much larger story of resilience and resistance. By acknowledging the struggles of the past, recognizing the challenges of the present, and working together towards a more inclusive future, we can continue the march towards equality for all. Together, as a united front, we can create a world where every individual, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation, can live authentically and without fear.
Action You Can Take Today
When exploring these policies, it’s important to keep in mind that if we solve for accessibility for the most impacted among us, it creates benefits for all of us. Having a gender neutral bathroom accessible can also benefit cisgender people, as some people may feel safer in a gender neutral space then a gendered one. Having a blanket “Parental Leave” policy can simplify navigating welcoming a child into an employees life, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation. Below are some tips you can take to build a more welcoming and inclusive work place, and how you can show up and support the LGBTQ+ community through public policy efforts where every voice is needed right now.
- Review your company policies and language: Are they inclusive of all genders and sexual orientations? Use gender neutral language like “they/them/theirs” and “employees/staff/team members.” In regards to inclusive policies, some common ones to look for, if you have maternity leave, can you update your maternity leave to “Parental” leave? If you have different PTO policies for maternity and paternity leave, can you extend the same offer to paternal leave and cover it under parental leave? Or if you’re not in a position to be able to offer the same amount of PTO for paternity leave, you can rename the policies under primary and secondary care givers? And does your parental leave policy include events like adoption or foster care? An easy language switch is instead of breast feeding, is chest feeding, as not all people who give birth identify as women. As you review your handbooks and policies, look for any policy that is gendered or assumes a heteronormative family structure. Once you’ve identified them, work with your team for how you can meaningfully update these resources and policies to be more inclusive.
- Accessible Bathrooms: Do you have gender neutral bathrooms? If you’re restrooms are gendered, can you make them gender neutral and update your signage to indicate what facilities are in each restroom? As an example, does the restroom have urinals and stalls or just stalls? By moving to all gender neutral restrooms, it can also make more efficient use of the facilities, no more long lines for the women’s room while the mens room stalls are vacant. The only updates you’d need to make are signage, potentially making urinals more private (consider adding doors similar to stalls), and just educating your team about the updates.
- Health Care: Do your healthcare benefits support access to gender affirming care for your employees and their dependents? You make have to work with your health insurance broker to find the answer on this one, if it doesn’t, when you’re renewal is up, work with your health insurance broker to find a plan that does provide that coverage. You may think this isn’t applicable to your team, but you never know what people are privately going through. It also signals to your team that you care about them and that you’ve got their back no matter what. These policies can also help as you’re recruiting talent.
- State and Local Level Advocacy: Partner and build relationships with local LGBTQ and justice minded organizations that are local to your area or are the local affiliate of a national organization (like the ACLU or the Equality Federation). Your local organizations are going to know what’s happening on local school boards right up to state and federal legislation that impact the LGBTQ community in your backyard. Your time and financial support of these local organizations will go a very long way and will have a much greater impact than supporting just the national, top of mind, large organizations. It will also prove to your community, that you do deeply care and are invested in them. Start out by writing an email to the organization introducing yourself and offering whatever you can, it might be as simple as you’re a local business owner and want to support their efforts, if you’re willing to meet with your legislators, let them know. They will keep you on a list of folks they call when they need constituents to meet with their legislators to move them on a bill.
- Be an Active Advocate in Your Networks: Are you a member of a business association or chamber of commerce? Make sure you bring your justice lens to those conversations and work and advocate for equality whenever you are able, let folks know you support pro LGBTQ legislation and why it is important to you. Your “why” could be as simple and honest as doing the right thing helps you attract talent to your business and it supports your workers and when your workers are doing well, you do well. It could be more personal, maybe you have an LGBTQ family member or are LGBTQ yourself. A lot of anti-LGBTQ legislation seeks to dehumanize us, and these conversations of sharing why we support the LGBTQ community, helps to bring that humanity back to front and center.
- Amplify the work of local civil rights organizations: If you own a business, especially a consumer facing business, amplify the messages of your local organizations. Share them on your social channels, develop programs in partnership with those organizations, put signage up at your establishment. If you can activate your consumers around these issues, that will be all the more powerful and impactful.
- Continue Learning: Whether you’re a member of the LGBTQ community or not, we can all always be growing and learning more about how we can authentically show up and support one another. Here are some links to resources to help you get started.
By Benn Marine June 28, 2023